Zu An was surprised to see the ignorant Chu Huanzhao actually knowing so much about all of these intricate politics. In a sense, it showed how horrible of a situation the Chu clan was in.
The fact that they were appearing together meant that they weren’t afraid of the Chu clan finding out about their ties. It could even be viewed as a message to the rest of the world to urge them to choose a side.
Sang Hong looked like a shriveled old man with a bit of a goatee. His appearance was far older than his actual age. Based on the rumors, he was quite a competent official in the royal court, being able to deal with ten times more documents than an ordinary person could.
Despite his old appearance, his eyes had a spirited glimmer in them. There was an air of imposingness shrouding him.
Seeing this, however, Zu An couldn’t help but shake his head. Wow, he really reminds me of all of those overworked programmers I have seen in my previous life. As I thought, 996 is really toxic. 
In comparison, his son, Sang Qian, looked more normal. While Sang Qian wasn’t as eye-catching as Xie Xiu and Shi Kun, he had an air of militaristic valiance around him that brought about quite a few excited shrieks from the fangirls in the crowd.
It was just that the attention of these women soon shifted over to Shi Kun.
“Big brother Shi, big brother Shi~”
“Big brother Shi, I love you~”
“Waaa, so handsome. My gosh, I’m going to faint…”
Zu An rolled his eyes in disdain. He really is like an ape. Wherever he goes, people just gape at him.
He tapped on Pei Mianman’s shoulders and asked, “Hey, tell me the truth. Is that fellow really that handsome? I don’t think he’s as good-looking as I am.”
“You want to hear the truth or the lie?” Pei Mianman’s lips curled up.
“Do you even need to ask? Of course it’s the lie!” replied Zu An vehemently.
Pei Mianman burst into laughter. “You sure are an interesting fellow.”
Meanwhile, Chu Huanzhao suspiciously eyed the two of them intently. Why does it seem like something is up between the two of them?
All of a sudden, Zu An’s face stiffened. He just received an incredibly terrifying notification in his system.
You have successfully trolled Qiao Xueying for +99 +99 +99 +99…
He leaped in shock right away. What’s going on? Is Snow nearby?
Just thinking about those vicious eyes filled with killing intent directed toward him made him search the area intently.
At the same time, he was also perplexed as to what Snow was doing here. One must know that there were many experts gathered here. Putting aside all the fifth rank cultivators present, there were also eighth rank cultivators like Chu Zhongtian and Governor Sang Hong too. According to the rumors, Jiang Luofu was an eighth rank cultivator too.
Wasn’t it foolish for a fifth rank cultivator spy like her to sneak in here?
Even though Sang Hong and the Chu clan were on bad terms, they still had their own images to keep up. For a matter as serious as a traitor coming out of the Chu clan, the Sang clan would be obliged to help them too under public pressure.
However, no matter how he searched around, he was unable to find Snow anywhere. It was then that a thought came to his mind. He turned to Shi Kun’s side, and indeed, there was a fair-complexioned lad in his entourage staring at him.
“Wearing a mask, huh?”
The inflow of Rage points and that familiar eyes were more than enough evidence for Zu An to verify her to be Snow. Of course, unlike some of those dumber historical dramas where a female lead tried to fool everyone into thinking that she was a man just by changing her hairdo and wearing male clothes, Snow was far more thorough. Her entire face was different from before, which probably meant that she was wearing some sort of mask.
That being said, the mask was actually quite amazingly made. If not for the keyboard’s identification feature, it was unlikely that he would have recognized Snow.
With such thoughts in mind, she turned to Pei Mianman and asked nervously, “Young miss Pei, is there a way to disguise your face entirely in this world?”
“Disguise your face?” Pei Mianman was surprised by the abrupt question, but she still answered it properly, “There is. Formidable runemasters have the ability to create masks that changes a person’s face completely.”
“Doesn’t that mean that it’s extremely easy to impersonate another person?” asked Zu An anxiously.
“Based on what I know, it isn’t that easy,” replied Pei Mianman with a shake of her head. “Cultivators are exceptionally discerning when it comes to such stuff due to their sharpened senses, making it hard to fool them. If you try to disguise yourself as someone whom everyone knows, the chances are that you’ll end up getting seen through. But of course, given how huge the world is, there might just be someone who is able to pull it off impeccably.”
“I see. That’s a relief,” Zu An heaved a sigh of relief.
“Why are you suddenly asking about this?” asked Pei Mianman curiously.
Zu An casually answered, “I’m just thinking that it would be horrible if someone uses my charming face to fool young misses out there. That would really ruin my reputation!”
“…” Pei Mianman.
“…” Chu Huanzhao.
Snow seemed to have noticed that Zu An was looking in her direction, so she quickly averted her gaze to avoid his notice.
Zu An was also in no rush to expose her either. He turned to look at Shi Kun and sneered coldly under his breath. So, the mastermind of it all is you. Looks like my guess is spot-on. Well, let’s have a good game then!
All along, Shi Kun had been pulling strings from the shadows to deal with him, leaving him in a fluster to protect himself. However, the tables were turned now. Zu An knew who the true mastermind was whereas Shi Kun still thought that he was in the shadows. It was time to shake things up a little.
You have successfully trolled Wu Qing for +33 Rage points.
Yet another wave of Rage points came flowing in, delighting Zu An. I didn’t think that it was so popular. These people sure are in a hurry to send gifts my way.
Wu Qing was standing behind a middle-aged man, glaring at him discreetly. Zu An couldn’t be bothered to waste his time with the tantrum of a haughty little ‘princess’, so he chose to focus his attention on the middle-aged man walking with her instead. Judging by his disposition, he should be the neighboring Sunspring Duke, Wu Wei.
Seeing how he and Chu Zhongtian were chatting with beaming smiles on their faces, making it look almost as if they were old friends, Zu An couldn’t help but marvel at how wily these old foxes were.
While Wu Wei and Chu Zhongtian were chatting with one another, Sang Hong made his way over to the Zheng clan, where Zheng Yutang and Zheng Dan had long stood up to welcome him.
“Good, good~” Sang Hong assessed his future daughter-in-law for a moment before nodding his head in satisfaction. Be it Zheng Dan’s looks, etiquette, or disposition, there were no flaws he could pick out from her. It was a pity that her background was a little lacking, but the Sang clan was already plenty influential as it was already.
On the other hand, Zheng Dan’s cheeks flushed red upon hearing her future father-in-law’s compliment, making her look even more feminine and dignified.
Soon, everyone settled down into their seats. Sang Hong took the center seat, and beside him were City Lord Xie Yi and Principal Jiang Luofu. They were the judges of the tournament, so it was only normal for them to take the most esteemed positions.
Chu Zhongtian and Wu Wei sat opposite to one another. From their positions, it was made clear that they were both cognizant who their true opponents were in the upcoming tournament.
Following that were the patriarchs of the Yuan clan, Zheng clan, and Wang clan. Shi Kun, despite being a junior, was also seated in their midst, which was testimony to his esteemed position.
“I heard you offended the Sixth Young Master of the Shi clan?” Pei Mianman looked on the stage as she transmitted her voice over to Zu An with a smile. It looked like she had been keeping an eye out for the events in the academy too.
Toward that question, Zu An harrumphed coldly and said, “What do you mean by I offended him? He’s the one who offended me?”
“You can put it however you want to.” Pei Mianman rolled her eyes. “Still, as your alliance mate, I should warn you that the Shi clan is not to be trifled with. Take that old man behind him, Shi Lezhi, for example. He’s Shi Kun’s protector, but he’s an eighth rank cultivator. He could destroy as easily as it would be to stomp on an ant.”
“Eighth rank?” Zu An was shocked. “Are eighth rank cultivators that common nowadays? I thought eighth rank cultivators are strong enough to be bestowed with the position of a duke or marquess. I mean, even a governor like Sang Hong is also at eighth rank as well. Why would that old man content himself with being a bodyguard for a young brat?”
“You’re right to say that most governors are eighth rank cultivators, though they’re still a bit too weak to be bestowed with the position of a marquess or duke. There are indeed some official positions that only eighth rank cultivators can take on, but it doesn’t mean that they are available to any eighth rank cultivator out there. There are only that few official positions, and there are many people eyeing them intently. Whether you can get it or not depends on your ability, luck, and background.
“There are plenty of experts who work hard their entire life, only to be unable to obtain the official position they want. All in all, the younger you manage to reach a certain height, the more likely you are to be chosen for an official position over the rest of your competitors. For someone like Shi Lezhi, who barely managed to reach the eighth rank in his silver years, has no more potential left in him anymore. Due to that, he’s unable to obtain a good official position in the royal court. In comparison, he would be treated much better in his clan instead.
“But while I said that he has no potential, that’s only in comparison to the other eighth rank cultivators. Against low-rank cultivators like you, he’s still a behemoth whom you don’t stand a chance against.”
Zu An nodded in response, having roughly grasped what was going on.
Basically, being an eighth rank cultivator was like obtaining a degree. Theoretically, you could get a job with this degree, but there were plenty of other people with degrees vying for the top jobs too. Due to the rife competition, there were some who were unable to get an official position till their death.
However, if the degree you received was no ordinary degree, for example, a first-class honors degree, you would be viewed to have greater potential. Naturally, you would be more likely to land a job too.
It would appear that Shi Lezhi was of average aptitude compared to his fellow degree holders, which resulted in his elimination in the competition. However, it should be noted that this was only relative to his fellow eighth rank cultivators. Compared to most other cultivators out there, he was more than worthy of being labeled a prodigy.
For the first time, Zu An was getting a glimpse into just how competitive the world of cultivation was. To think that even someone who had managed to reach the eighth rank would be considered as a failure…
Wait a moment, why am I feeling bad for that old man? He’s an eighth rank cultivator, even if he’s barely stepped into the rank. All it takes is a finger from him to squeeze me to death!
It was then that someone came over to shout for him. It seemed like those participating in the tournament had to wait at a demarcated area in advance.
“Good luck. I believe that you’ll be able to win,” said Pei Mianman with a smile.
The two of them had sparred with one another that other night, and she had seen with her own eyes that this young man wasn’t as useless as others think him out to be. Perhaps, he might just surprise everyone today.
“You have good eyes,” complimented Zu An.
“…” Pei Mianman.
Chu Huanzhao couldn’t take it anymore. She pouted unhappily and said, “Big sister Pei, I’m participating in the tournament too! Why aren’t you rooting for me?”
Toward that, Pei Mianman smiled gently and said, “Little sister Huanzhao, isn’t your victory already assured?”
Chu Huanzhao could sense that Pei Mianman’s words were insincere, so she continued sulking unhappily.
She can’t be trying to seduce my brother-in-law, is she? Hmph! Just you wait, I’ll surely tell my big sister about this!
However, when she thought about her big sister’s attitude toward Zheng Dan, she suddenly starting hesitating. She felt that her big sister was acting too nonchalantly toward her brother-in-law, as if it didn’t matter to her at all.
Forget it, I’ll just have to be the doorkeeper then!”
The two of them headed to the waiting area, where the other fighters from the Chu clan were already gathered. At the far opposite were Yuan Wendong and the other fighters from the Yuan clan. Out of fear that Yuan Wendong would back down on their duel, Zu An made sure to shout loudly, “Hey, Yuan Wendong! I’ll be magnanimous and tell you face on that I’ll be the last one to go up later on. You better not back out, or else I’ll curse your balls to drop off!”
“…” Yuan Wendong.
You have successfully trolled Yuan Wendong for +666 Rage!
Yuan Wendong’s face turned incredibly red. Putting aside how intense the rivalry between the two clans was, they would at least still maintain some level of etiquette in public. It was beyond his imagination that someone would actually hurl insults at him in such a manner as if a hoodlum.
However, with so many prominent figures watching him, as furious as he was, he dared not to return the insult. Instead, he remarked coldly, “Very well. I’ll look forward to trying out Brother Zu’s skills!”
Hmph! If I don’t cripple him later on, I shall renounce my surname!